What is the difference between booking and reservation?

  • Jul 09, 2024
What is the difference between booking and reservation?

The difference between a booking and a reservation is that the former is an appointment that has not been paid for while the latter is an appointment that has been paid for in advance.

It is important to understand there is little difference between booking and reservation when it comes to travel and hospitality services. By appreciating these differences it will be easier to handle your plans.


Booking is the ultimate stage of the travel purchase process where the consumer confirms and pays for a particular travel product or service. This could be a booking of a hotel, air ticket, tour, activity, cruise, or any other kind of travel accommodation. Since booking is prepayment, it means that you are promising to attend the event or use the product for which you are paying.

A reservation means that an individual sets aside a room, a seat, or some other type of travel inventory without final payment being made. This is normally done for a limited time when the reservation is rolled over for a certain period when no booking is made.

Key Differences

There are a few key ways that bookings and reservations differ: There are a few key ways that bookings and reservations differ:

Payment Status

The main distinction is that if you make a booking, then a payment or a deposit is necessary, while in the case of a reservation, no payment is needed. Ensuring payment is another crucial factor when you book a hotel; you give out your credit card details. As with hotels, airline tickets also have to be paid without any partial payments or options to pay later. They just make a reservation that is the right to perhaps rent later on.

Guarantee Level

Bookings entail a certain assurance of availability of a certain travel product or service for you. A hotel, a tour company, or an attractions site cannot also sell the same room, seat, or slot again to another individual. Reservations provide priority to that particular place though it cannot be guaranteed that one will get the place.

Cancellation Policies

This is why you see that in the booking, you have to know that you will pay, there are often more rigid terms of cancellation and change. If you are to change your travel plans, there is a possibility that you will forfeit part or the full amount of what you pre-paid. Reservation terms are normally more relaxed up to the time that you have made a down payment on the reservation you have made.

Hold Length

Normally, a reservation is for a brief period, less than a week in most cases. Before that hold is taken, the booking process needs to be filled. The important thing to understand is that bookings for services such as travel do not have any expiry the travel service is yours regardless of the time chosen to utilize it.

Usage in Travel

Now that you understand the core differences, here is an overview of how bookings and reservations are commonly used with different travel products: Now that you understand the core differences, here is an overview of how bookings and reservations are commonly used with different travel products:


We can book and take a room in a hotel for a certain period, as well as reserve it for use at a certain time. Each hotel reserves the right to place a particular type of room without charge and temporarily. However, to ensure the booking and hold the room, you must furnish your credit card details within 72 hours. Bookings instantly confirm payment.


The airline seats need to be booked and fully paid for before the flight. Booking does not clinch your tickets; you will need to make other arrangements. It is often possible to make some of these reservations in multiple city trips as the itinerary is fine-tuned within the last 24-48 hours. Tickets must then be booked all together and hence this means that you will find that ticket booking can be done all at once.

Tours and Activities

Entering, guiding, and showing, attractions and shows, and activity services usually offer the possibility of bookings. This makes you appear on the list of attendees but you do not have to make some payment right from the onset. Bookings of complete tours and activities should be made close to the date of their occurrence to ensure your place.

Transport Rentals

Car rentals, and other transport services including RVs, boats, and bicycles mostly make their bookings beforehand using credit cards. These assure that your particular rental unit is being held. If the meals are to be ordered in advance, it is said that early booking is necessary to guarantee their availability.


Similar to restaurant reservations, it involves booking your name and number of guests for a specific date and time but without an obligation to pay. Then you just come on the time that has been reserved and sit and order your food.


Cabins on cruises can be booked with a deposit amount that is refundable if the client decides to hold the cabin for a short time. Nevertheless, it is important to make full cruise payment for a cruise to be finalized, which is often expected 60-90 days from the date of travel. It is necessary to emphasize that your cabin assignment is subject to change until you pay the total amount.

Group Bookings

In certain circumstances such as family trips, reunions, wedding anniversaries, meetings, or conferences, for instance, the reserved slots may be put on hold as a block of rooms or tour spots. This is followed by the groups confirming the attendees and finalizing payments to seal all bookings.

The following are some of the best ways to use Bookings and Reservations to improve your business;

Make use of the reserve option – free temporary holds that the reservation provides. This allows you some freedom of time to reconsider your options before you decide on your last itinerary and go through the processes of booking. I just want to note that there are hold expiration dates, so please be careful of them.

A technique is used to involve the combination of ensured non-refundable bookings of flights and hotels with tours and transfer service bookings. This I think enables modification of some plans if the need arises.

As with any bookings, make sure you fully read the cancellation policies before making any final decisions. Opt for travel insurance especially for long holidays so as not to be penalized in case of date changes or cancellation due to some circumstances.

Plan for the use of group reservations as early as possible especially when organizing for a group of people for travel. This ensures adequate space is reserved at lodges, on trips, and for travel.

Accidentally, people may make mistakes with names, dates, room types/seat numbers, services, and so on, so it is better to double-check all the details of booking. Save all booking confirmations.

Even if a low degree of IT flexibility is acceptable, understanding the difference between the booking of a trip and a reservation allows you to organize travels and payments while at the same time maintaining a certain degree of freedom concerning the specific details of the trip. Smartly employ requests for reservations and secure spaces when possible, but always finalize non-refundable transactions to the rules of different suppliers and your approaches to traveling."

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